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Fair trade group slams business call for corporate rights

Media release Aug 10 2012


Fair trade group slams business call for corporate rights to sue governments in trade agreements

“We condemn the call by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the government to change its policy and support rights for foreign investors to sue governments in trade agreements”, Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said today.

“Under the North American Free Trade Agreement US corporations have sued governments for millions of dollars over legitimate health and environmental legislation. The Australian government policy is also based on the evidence of the 2010 Report of the Australian Productivity Commission, which found that investor rights to sue governments gave increased rights to foreign investors over domestic investors, but did not result in any increase in foreign investment, nor in any benefits for national economies. It found that governments pay the price in challenges to legitimate public regulation and millions of dollars in costs and damages.” explained Dr Ranald.

“The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently suing the Australian government over its tobacco plain packaging legislation, using an obscure 1993 Hong Kong- Australia investment treaty. Philip Morris is actually a US-based company, but could not sue under the US-Australia free trade agreement, because public opposition kept this provision out of the agreement. Philip Morris rearranged its assets to become a Hong Kong investor in order to use an obscure treaty. This shows how these rights can be abused by giant global companies,’’ said Dr Ranald.

“We call upon the government to stand firm on its policy of no rights for foreign investors to sue governments in the current negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement between Australia, the US New Zealand and six Asia-Pacific countries, and in all other current and future trade negotiations,” added Dr Ranald.

The ACCI document is at http://acci.asn.au/Research-and-Publications/Media-Centre/Media-Releases-and-Transcripts/Global-Engagement/Australian-Foreign-Investment-Requires-Right-to-Su.aspx

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